27 October 2021

WebXR Wars

Interesting piece in Immersive Web Weekly on the "rift" between the Oculus/Chrome implementation of WebXR and the Firefox/HTC/others version. 

Today XR headset makers face a tough choice among immersive browsers: invest a considerable number of people to maintain a custom Google Chromium-based browser with great WebXR support (as Facebook does for the Quest) or port a Mozilla Gecko-based browser like Firefox Reality and deal with XR support that hasn't changed in any substantial way since Mozilla's Mixed Reality team was laid off more than a year ago.

Last week Shen Ye followed the path of the Pico team in revealing that HTC's new Vive Flow headset will ship with Firefox Reality and Stan Larroque also announced in a YouTube livestream that the Lynx team is working on a Firefox Reality port for their headset.

HTC, Lynx, Pico and Mozilla do not intend, as far as I can tell, to update Gecko's WebXR implementation. The divergence between Chromium- and Gecko-based browsers has already fragmented the fetal immersive web, forcing developers to choose between supporting only one browser engine or writing what is effectively two separate rending and input handling paths for their code. If we want a healthy and open immersive web then this must change.

(editor's note for transparency: I was the original product manager for Firefox Reality but left Mozilla before the layoffs. I have donated to the Mozilla Foundation for more than a decade and continue to do so but have no equity or other financial ties.)

We've bumped into this at Daden when looking at using Pico for a potential project. Pretty typical of the industry, agree a new standard and then immediately split it in two!

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